Imbolc is a Pagan holiday that is celebrated on February 1st and 2nd and marks the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The word Imbolc is Gaelic and can be translated as “in the belly.” As the winter begins to ebb, seeds of new life begin to stir – in the bellies of animals, in the belly of the earth, and in our own bellies. Our attention, in minute shifts, begins to turn towards life. Just yesterday, as I was watching a deer outside my door, I found my attention drawn towards her belly, wondering if she might be pregnant and trying to remember like I do every year when it is that we start seeing the first fawns.
Imbolc also marks the “quickening” of the springtime. Although the days begin to get longer in December, immediately following the Winter Solstice, it becomes more noticeable as we move into February. The slow ripple of change that began as the earth tipped over the Solstice now becomes a noticeable wave carrying us forward toward spring.
Although subtle, this quickening energy is not to be taken lightly. If you’ve ever watched waves in the ocean, you know that an imperceptible swell can become a massive wave without much warning. It is at this transition point that we must stay present. If we allow ourselves to stay tucked into our sleepy winter nooks, we might end up feeling swallowed by the wave when it breaks on us at full springtime. Each season asks a different energy of us, and if we aren’t paying attention, we can end up in spring with our winter mind still running the show. But if we allow ourselves to be conscious of our subtly changing energy, thoughts, emotions, and needs, and find ways to nurture those changes at a pace that matches the spring wave, we can enter spring riding high and ready to receive its’ full abundance.
As women we get additional practice with riding this transitional wave every month with the inner seasons of our moon cycles. As we finish bleeding and leave the peace and rest of our inner winter, the excitement and energy of inner spring can sometimes come on too quickly if we aren’t tuned into the subtle shifts that are happening within us. But unlike the seasonal cycle, which happens over several months, this monthly transition lasts only a few days, challenging us to be experts at tapping into our intuition. When we allow our intuition to guide us, we can flow through the transition effortlessly. And if we take the time to look at both these cycles in our lives – the seasonal cycle and our moon cycles – we can gain even more wisdom as they inform each other and create a deeper understanding of navigating cyclical flow.
Now I’m going to shift gears for a moment and talk about body movement. It might seem unrelated, but bear with me. For me, movement is such a metaphor for life – our bodies carry so much wisdom when we really tune in to them. When I worked as a movement coach, I would spend my days obsessively trying to figure out how to guide people towards better movement patterns, often coming up with obscure metaphors that I’m not really sure anyone understood besides me. At some point I started to notice that it seemed like a lot of my clients could really only focus on two points of a movement pattern (like a squat for example) – the starting point and the ending point. (This is a bit of a simplification, for the purpose of explaining this concept…) I began to ask myself if they were really aware of their bodies during every moment of the exercise. Some of them did seem to be aware of other moments, but in “chunks.” However, a movement consists of more than just a starting point and ending point, or a few more points in between; there are an infinite number of points between the start and the finish, and an infinite number of transitions between all those infinite points. It’s not enough to just be able to “control” the beginning point and ending point and call it good. I put “control” in quotations here because being in “control” of your body doesn’t actually mean being in “control” of it in the way we usually think of that word – i.e., forcing something to happen the way you want it to. True control is really more of a flow – being aware of what is happening in the moment, surrendering to it, and then being able to respond to whatever is happening. In order to flow through a movement, you must be able to flow through all these points and transitions as well, not just the beginning and end. In the same way, it’s not enough for us to just be aware of winter and aware of spring. It’s important for us to be aware of, surrender to, and respond to all the infinite moments and infinite transition points between these two seasons. Then we can live in a state of cyclical flow.
Our winter selves and our spring selves are very different from each other, and they begin to meet each other at Imbolc. But the energy of winter and the energy of spring might seem like complete opposites – how can one tend both these energies inside themselves at the same time? Seasonal transitions like Imbolc are not about flipping a switch. Instead, they call us to make gradual, intentional adjustments.
The first step in this process is awareness. We can begin to check in with ourselves daily: How do I feel today? Where is my intuition leading me? Will I follow? What do I truly need today, all expectations aside? What new sensations am I feeling? How do the returning birdsongs make me feel? How does the air feel different on my skin and in my lungs? What effect do the longer days have on my mind, body, and soul? How are the fresh colors inspiring me?
The next step is surrendering: Where do I feel resistance and why? What would happen if I let go? Can I begin each day without expectation? Can I fully exhale?
The last step is responding: What will I choose to do differently today to honor both my winter and spring selves? What do I still need to learn from winter? How can I tend the seeds in my belly at each infinite moment as they grow?
And most importantly: As the wave of springtime picks up momentum, can I flow with it?